The desire to live better, to live more deeply. To live in a way that is satisfying beyond wealth or material goods. This is a longing that has always existed, yet in our current cultural setting, is being spoken aloud and taken seriously with increasing frequency.
Consider, for example:
- A recent study revealed that the Millennial generation places family and personal interests well above career or technology as “central to who they are” (this is, notably, a shift from the Boomer generation, that placed career as most central to identity).
- Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek–a book that challenges cultural assumptions about “work for work’s sake” and deferring the “good life” until retirement, and instead suggests living more and working less–has spent seven years on the New York Times bestseller list.
- TED talk phenom, Brené Brown’s popular message to embrace research that points to “wholehearted living” by cultivating play and rest, and “letting go” of exhaustion as a status-symbol and productivity as self-worth.
- The gap between the actual hours spent by Americans on “leisure” activities, and our pervasive sense of feeling as if we lack free time.
- Acknowledgement in business circles that “work-life balance” isn’t the real goal; instead, work-life integration or effectiveness is what more of us actually desire.
- The New York Times defending the need for people to take enough time to enter into “the space to be still”
Taken as a whole, modern-day Western society is interested–really interested–in the deeper meaning of life. In a meaning that goes beyond work-productivity and wealth at any cost. Our society wants to know, how to live well? How to live the “good life”?
This is a moment, an opportunity for pre-evangelization, our Christian witness and dialogue (General Directory for Catechesis,§47-48) that doesn’t explicitly proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, but reveals how our basic human longings to live well, to live somehow better than what the status quo seems to offer, actually connect to our desire for right relationship with each other and with God, a longing for the transcendent–for something more. Pre-evangelization highlights and awakens these needs which may lie dormant or unnamed among those we meet, and through this the unevangelized become curious, open, or at least mildly interested in the ways of God.
By cultivating our own witness as Christians in this area, we have plenty to offer.
But that’s the tough part. Witness often speaks louder than words in pre-evangelization. We can’t convincingly talk about living the more authentic life God invites us to, unless we’re actually doing it.
Stay tuned. In my next post, we’ll dive into what Christian wisdom has to do with, as pastoral theologian Ann Garrido so compellingly puts it, living in right relationship with time (Redeeming Administration, p. 188).
Copyright 2016. Colleen Vermeulen